GoBook can weather the storm

If you're just sitting at a desk when you first put your hands on the Itronix Corp.'s GoBook, you probably won't find it very impressive. After all, there are notebook computers that are faster, easier to work on and more attractive.

But if you're outside and it's raining or sand is swirling, you'll start to appreciate the GoBook's special features. In a word, the GoBook is rugged. In another word, the GoBook is wireless.

OK, we didn't actually drop the GoBook on the concrete floor of the test lab, since we did agree to return the unit in one piece. But the GoBook meets 810E military standards for impact, dust and vibration resistance, which means it can survive repeated drops of up to 3 feet and can operate at temperatures from 10 degrees below zero to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The unit also can withstand driving rain for extended periods.

All this endurance has a price, though. The engineering that goes into the GoBook raises the cost to $4,500, relatively high if you're comparing the unit to nonruggedized models. Also, the thick magnesium case is not the most comfortable to work on, and neither is the GoBook's flat, glow-in-the-dark waterproof keyboard. Furthermore, attaching peripherals and opening the unit's drive bay—which can contain either a CD, DVD or floppy drive, or an extra battery—is a tad more complicated because of the rubber seals that protect the slots from the elements.

But those inconveniences are well worth putting up with if it means your computer isn't going to konk out when it starts raining.

We were also impressed with the GoBook's 12-inch touch screen display. It may not seem like a big deal, but if your hands are mucked up with mud or dirt, the touch screen and stylus let you navigate applications without dirtying up the GoBook.

Also on the plus side, we found the built-in wireless modem to be a major benefit. The wireless antenna is a long piece of rubber that swings up from the side of the display. Although the wireless modem works with any cellular digital packet data network, bear in mind that your data transmissions will generally be limited to the CDPD's standard rate of 19.2 kilobits/sec. When you're outside wireless range or need a faster connection, however, you can connect using the built-in 56 kilobits/sec standard modem.

The GoBook also comes complete with a network interface card, a USB port and RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports. Even with its built-in speakers and all of its ruggedization features, the GoBook weighs only 7.5 pounds.

There are a couple of things we didn't find very appealing about the GoBook. First, it was delivered without bundled software. Instead, the unit we evaluated came with Microsoft Corp. Windows 98 already installed. When we installed Windows 2000 for testing, Windows 98 was disabled. Display drivers for Windows 2000 were not available, so we were not able to complete our benchmark testing.

Generally, however, we found the GoBook, with its 600 MHz Intel Corp. Celeron processor and maximum of 256M of dynamic RAM, to be a steady performer, although it wasn't the fastest we've seen. If performance is a priority for your department's uses, however, bear in mind that Itronix has recently announced a version of the GoBook that sports a 700 MHz Intel Pentium III processor.

Most users, however, will find the GoBook's performance more than adequate. And, as noted above, if you're slogging through mud or in the middle of a rainstorm, you'll find the GoBook's ability to keep running at all a major plus.

REPORT CARD

GoBook

Score: B+

Itronix Corp.
(509) 624-6600
www.itronix.com

Pricing and availability: Commercially available for $4,500, GSA pricingnot available.

Remarks: The performance and ease of use of the Itronix GoBook won't knockyour socks off. But if you need a computer that can stand up to rainstorms,sandstorms, heavy vibrations and rough handling, the GoBook is one toughcustomer.

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